SEATTLE – The first complete-game shutout by a Seattle pitcher in 2013 won’t belong to the Mariners’ $175 million man Felix Hernandez.
Try Aaron Harang.
After failing to make it out of the fourth inning in his previous start, Harang tossed a four-hit gem on Monday, shutting down the San Diego Padres in a 9-0 win. It was the first complete game for Harang since June 4, 2009, and first shutout since April 12, 2009. He struck out a season-high eight while throwing 122 pitches.
And it was surprising because of how bad Harang was in his last start against the Los Angeles Angels when he gave up two home runs, nine hits and seemed on the verge of losing his spot in Seattle’s rotation.
“I’ve been working really hard with (pitching coach) Carl (Willis) to try and get things lined up and he’s looked at a lot of video. The big thing was coming out and pounding the strike zone and getting ahead in the count,” Harang said. “They’re an aggressive team. They’re going to go out swinging and I was able to get them to put the ball into play within the first couple of pitches a few times and didn’t get into the count too much early on.”
Harang (2-5) was helped by getting staked to a 4-0 lead after the first inning, giving him the opportunity to pitch aggressively while still having some cushion for error. Jason Bay hit his first career leadoff homer and Michael Morse added a three-run shot as part of Seattle’s four-run first inning.
A day after getting the game-winning hit in the 13th inning against Texas that snapped the Mariners’ eight-game losing streak, Bay got Seattle started against San Diego lefty Clayton Richard.
Bay hit the fourth pitch to deep right-center for his fifth homer of the season. Morse followed with his 11th into the right-field seats after Richard (0-5) walked Kyle Seager and gave up a double to Kendrys Morales.
Harang was dominant after struggling to get outs at various times in his previous six starts. He allowed a leadoff bloop double to Everth Cabrera, then retired 18 of the next 19 batters.
Harang took a one-hitter into the seventh inning in the best performance of his seven starts with Seattle. He was efficient with his pitches and used the favorable dimensions of Safeco Field. Three times Harang saw fly balls caught on the warning track, including center fielder Endy Chavez making a twisting grab just in front of the wall to rob Chase Headley of extra bases in the first inning.
Headley led off the seventh inning with a hard shot that deflected off the glove of a diving Morales at first base for the Padres’ second hit. Headley wasn’t at first long as Carlos Quentin hit a line drive right back at Harang, who got his glove up in time and was able to easily double off Headley at first.
Harang gave up a hit and walk in the eighth, but was able to finish the inning and began the ninth to a loud ovation. He was asked by Willis after the eighth how he felt. His response: “I want to finish it.”
It wasn’t an easy ninth. He struck out Headley on a 12-pitch at-bat, got Carlos Quentin looking and got Yonder Alonso on a fly.
Morales is hitting .500 with seven doubles and nine RBIs during his current seven-game hitting streak.
“Been working in the cage and just grinding more and more and more, trying to get better and help the team,” Morales said through a translator. “(I) feel comfortable now where I want to be and just going to get better.”
M’s demote Ackley
The Mariners have demoted struggling second baseman Dustin Ackley to Triple-A Tacoma, the second young prospect the team has sent down in the last week.
The Mariners selected rising prospect Nick Franklin from Tacoma to take Ackley’s spot on the roster. Seattle also optioned left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge to Tacoma and recalled right-hander Hector Noesi.
Ackley joins Jesus Montero as young players the Mariners were counting on this season who will try to rediscover themselves at the plate in the minors. Ackley was batting.205 and had just six hits since May 7, when his average was at its season high of .255.
Franklin was hitting .324 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 39 games with Tacoma.